Amid a flurry of calls by fellow Senate Democrats to resign, Sen. Bob Menendez pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges relating to an alleged bribery conspiracy involving payments in gold bars, hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, a luxury car and passing sensitive information to the Egyptian government.
Menendez has been charged with three counts for allegedly taking bribes to use his political power and connections to help the government of Egypt obtain military aid as well as pressure a state prosecutor investigating New Jersey businessmen and attempt to influence the federal prosecution of a co-defendant.
The senator’s wife, Nadine Menendez, and co-defendants Jose Uribe and Fred Daibe, entered not guilty pleas as well. A fifth co-defendant, Wael Hana, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday.
More than 20 Democratic senators, including his fellow New Jersey senator Cory Booker, have called for Menendez, to resign. Menendez, who is up for reelection next year, has already stepped down from his post as the Foreign Relations Committee chairman.
Asked Tuesday why he wouldn’t resign, Menendez told reporters: “Because I’m innocent. What’s wrong with you guys?”
In a statement Monday, Menendez was adamant that he will be exonerated “when all the facts are presented” and said that over the course of three decades he had been withdrawing hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash from his savings, which he said he kept for emergencies.
Federal agents found nearly $500,000 in cash after searching Menendez’s home – including stacks of cash inside jackets emblazoned with his name.
According to the indictment, Menendez – through his girlfriend and now-wife Nadine Menendez – struck up a relationship with Hana, who allegedly maintained closed relationships with Egyptian officials.
Hana and Nadine allegedly arranged meetings with Menendez and Egyptian officials requesting military sales and financing, which, as Foreign Relations chairman, Menendez held a significant amount of influence over.
According to the indictment, Menendez and his wife promised to use the senator’s position to help facilitate the sales and aid in exchange for a “low-or-no-show job” for Nadine.
The indictment alleges that Menendez used his political power to pass along highly sensitive information to Egyptian officials, helped ghost-write a letter from the Egyptian government requesting US aid and signed off on military sales to Egypt.
Menendez is also accused of taking bribes in the form of a luxury car for his wife in order to put pressure on a senior prosecutor in New Jersey supervising an investigation into two New Jersey businessmen connected to one of Menendez’s co-defendants.
In 2015, Menendez was indicted on corruption and bribery charges unrelated to the recent allegations. The case ended in a mistrial two years later after the jury said it was in a deadlock. Later, the judge overseeing the case acquitted of Menendez on some counts and the Justice Department declined to retry him on the others.
This story has been updated with additional developments.